The Song of the Dead* by John Henry Macartney Abbott

Large numbers of Australian and New Zealand volunteers are already on the water bound for Vancouver, en route for Europe.–Paragraph of War News, 1915.

Oh Land of Ours, hear the song we make for you
Land of yellow wattle bloom, land of smiling Spring-
Hearken to the after words, land of pleasant memories,
Shea–oaks of the shady creeks, hear the song we sing.
For we lie quietly, underneath the lonely hills,
Where the land is silent, where the guns have ceased boom,
Here we are waiting, and shall wait for Eternity–
Here on the battle–fields, where we found our doom.

Spare not thy pity–Life is strong and fair for you–
City by the waterside, homestead on the plain.
Keep ye remembrance, keep ye a place for us–
So all the bitterness of dying be not vain.
Oh, be ye mindful, mindful of our honor’s name;
Oh, be ye careful of the word ye speak in jest–
For we have bled for you; for we have died for you-
Yea, we have given, we have given our best.

Life that we might have lived, love that we might have loved,
Sorrow of all sorrows, we have drunk thy bitter lees.
Speak thou a word to us, here in our narrow beds–
Word of thy mourning lands beyond the Seas.
Lo, we have paid the price, paid the cost of Victory.
Do not forget, when the rest shall homeward come–
Mother of our childhood, sister of our manhood days,
Loved of our heavy hearts, whom we have left alone.

Hark to the guns–pause and turn, and think of us–
Red was our life’s blood, and heavy was the cost.
But ye have Nationhood, but ye are a people strong–
Oh, have ye love for the brothers ye have lost?
Oh, by the blue skies, clear beyond the mountain tops,
Oh, by the dear, dun plains where we were bred,–
What be your tokens, tokens that ye grieve for us,
Tokens of your Sorrowing for we that be Dead?

*This poem was originally published (in a slightly different version) in 1902 as part of the author’s memoirs of the Australian involvement in the Boer War (in which he took part) but was re-issued (with alterations to reflect the new theatre of war) at some time after the Australian and New Zealand forces withdrew from Gallipoli at the end of 1915.


Date: 1916?

By: John Henry Macartney Abbott (1874-1953)

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